By C Y Chew
SINGAPORE - As COE prices spiral upwards, owning a luxury automobile in Singapore is more than about getting from point A to B. It's also about lifestyle, and enjoying the finer things in life.
Maserati distributor Hong Seh Motors exemplified this when it recently invited well-heeled prospects to sample a selection of the Maserati model range on the road, as well as on a 62-foot Sunseeker Predator around the waters of Marina Bay.
The "la dolce vita" treatment began when four Maserati models were made available for test drives from the Capella Hotel to Changi Village. Accompanying them were Maserati instructors fresh off the plane from Italy. It might have been an overkill for a 40km drive on public roads but nobody was complaining.
The Maserati GranCabrio Sport is basically the topless version of the GranTurismo Sport. The car borrows the 450 hp 4.7-litre V8 of the range-topping MC Stradale but instead of a robotised manual gearbox like the MC, it uses an upgraded ZF six-speed automatic transmission adopted from the Quattroporte Sport GT S.
Called the MC Auto Shift, it halves shift times between gears in Auto Sport Mode, blips the throttle during downshifts, and has a launch control mode called MC Start Strategy.
But buyers of the GranCabrio Sport are probably going to be less concerned with its marginal performance improvement vis-à-vis the joy of driving with the wind in their faces and that glorious soundtrack.
In manual-sport mode (which keeps the exhaust flaps open all the time) and with the top down, the GranCabrio Sport goes from sedate highway cruiser to "look-at-me-I'm-important" glam.
The exhaust note alone is reason enough to buy the GranCabrio Sport - it just sounds wickedly good - like bottled aural ecstasy.
Yes, there is a bit of scuttle shake as the nearly two-tonne car goes over bad roads and the steering feels a tad detached. But with the sportier retune of the Skyhook suspension (dubbed Sport Skyhook), the GranCabrio Sport tackles fast, sweeping corners with composure and little body roll.
Jumping from the GranCabio Sport into the "entry-level" Quattroporte would have most feeling a bit let down. It's like meeting your hot friend for coffee after dinner with Monica Bellucci.
Maserati GranCabrio Sport
|Price: $490,000 (without COE)
Engine: 4,692cc V8
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic transmission
Max Power: 450 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Max Torque: 510 Nm @ 4,750 rpm
0-100kmh: 5.2 secs
Top speed: 285 kmh
Distributor: Hong Seh Motors 6266 1555
But the Quattroporte, now five years into its mid-life refresh, feels like an old lover (the all-new Quattroporte will be unveiled later this year). Her lines are still sensuous and while the soundtrack from the 4.2 V8 cannot hold a candle to the open air musical theatre of the GranCabrio, it still sounds velvety smooth from the outside.
Being a sedan, rigidity is better and the car actually feels smaller and more agile that the GranCabrio Sport. Still, it will sit four adults in cocooned comfort and oozes so much more panache than a German luxury limo.
Yes, there's less rear space and the normally aspirated V8 might not have the muscle of the newer Teutonic turbocharged engines. But buying a Quattroporte is as much about its dapper Italian styling as it is about outright performance. Heart vs Head. Then again, isn't that what the good life is about?
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